Callahan Eye Hospital celebrates 50 years

This month marks the golden anniversary for one of the south's leading eye care facilities.

The Callahan Eye Hospital was the brain-child of Dr. Alston Callahan. 50 years later, Callahan's dream remains "in focus."

His goal was three fold. To provide the best eye care regardless of a person's ability to pay. To create a research program to help cure eye diseases. And, Callahan wanted to provide education to the next generation of ophthalmologists to carry on his dream.

Michael Callahan is Alston Callahan's son. He recalls his father's passion and determination to bring top notch eye care to Birmingham. The younger Callahan is an ophthalmologist at the hospital that bears his father's name.

"He knew the benefits of putting everybody with eye trouble in one center," says Callahan. "Right away he started plans to build an eye hospital. The dream became an obsession, and the obsession became reality."Before it could become reality, money was needed.

"It took him about 13 years to raise the money to build the hospital. Because in those days, we didn't start construction until you had all the money."The facility opened in 1963 as The Eye Foundation Hospital. The hospital was re-named the Callahan Eye Hospital in 1999.It became part of UAB in 1971. Once that partnership formed, so did a residency training program with the UAB Department of Ophthalmology.

Christopher Girkin serves as chair of the department. "(Callahan) wanted to create a facility in which anyone could receive care, regardless of socio-economic status. He also wanted to create a facility that would educate the ophthalmologists of Alabama to distribute those doctors out to patients," says Girkin. So far, the residency program has trained more than 200 ophthalmologists. "We train five residents a year. It's highly sought after residency program. We have more than 400 applications a year for five spots," Girkin explains.The hospital also has 80 surgeons and more than 150 medical staff members. Girkin says, "We have specialist that work on all different parts of the eye. We have specialists who work on the cornea. We have specialists who just do glaucoma. We have specialists who do retina. And we have generalists who work and kind of help see the whole picture."

Brian Spraberry serves as CEO of Callahan Eye Hospital.

He says the hospital sees more than 23,000 patients and performs nearly 10,000 surgeries each year. The hospital also features the only 24/7 eye emergency center in the state.Now, as the Callahan Eye Hospital begins its 50th year in Birmingham. Spraberry considers the next fifty years. "The hospital was here 50 years, and it will be here another 50 years," says Spraberry. "When you look at the baby boomer population. There will be a tremendous need for eye surgery in the next 10 to 20 years."

"You look at all the work that went into building this hospital and all the surgery that we do here. It's a very special place for Alabama."

Another way the hospital is commemorating that anniversary. On the exterior of the building, you might notice a work of art.

It's called "Complex Vision" by the Israeli artist Yaacov Agam. It was installed 30-years-ago.{}

Throughout the years, the colors have faded. The hospital is looking for donations to restore this work.

The value of "Complex Vision" was estimated two years ago at $11.9 million. If you are interested in donating, contact UAB's community relations department at (205)-325-8526.